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Local News Archives for 2020-03

Bill to Ease Student Debt Included in Stimulus

Washington, DC -- U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) today announced that his bill to ease student debt is included in Phase Three of the Senate's stimulus package. Davis' bill (H.R. 1043) allows employers to offer a tax-free benefit of up to $5,250 to their employees to pay down existing student debt just as is currently allowed for tuition assistance.

"Student debt is the second highest form of consumer debt and we continue to see that be an issue now as our economy is on hold because of COVID-19," said Davis. "President Trump has taken steps to ease the burden of student loans and this creates a private sector approach to addressing debt. This tax-free benefit will not only help address the student debt crisis, but also help employers remain competitive with recruiting and retaining employees."

Davis has introduced this bill each Congress since 2014. S.3548, Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, authorizes this tax-free benefit through January 1, 2021. Davis will continue to work to make this student loan repayment benefit permanent. H.R. 1043 has 268 cosponsors and similar legislation in the Senate has 64 cosponsors.

Montgomery Co SWCD Postpones Fish Sale

Due to the circumstances involving the COVID 19 outbreak and the order to shelter in place, the SWCD is sorry to announce that they have had to postpone the Spring Fish Sale which was scheduled for April 7. Office staff hope to be able to reschedule for later in the Spring or begin making plans to hold their sale in the Fall, as planned. Refunds will be made to those who have already submitted their orders and payments. Staff members apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. The SWCD Board of Directors and Staff thank you for your continued support of the SWCD and its programs. Anyone with questions is asked to call the office at (217) 532-3361, ext. 3.

Montgomery Co Farm Bureau Scholarship Winners

Kris Reynolds, President of the Montgomery County Farm Bureau Foundation, is pleased to announce the 2020 -2021 scholarship recipients. On March 10, Foundation judges reviewed the applications for the scholarship program and were pleased with the quality of applications they received. Six scholarships in the amount of $2,000.00 were awarded. The MCFB Foundation Board of Directors encourages students to apply for the Scholarship Program for the 2021 - 2022 school year. The application process will be open online at beginning December 1, 2020. On behalf of the Foundation Board, President Reynolds would like to thank every student who applied and wishes them success as they continue their education and professional endeavors. The Scholarship Winners this year are Alexa Cassidy who attends Nokomis High School, Wesley Stockstill who attends Hillsboro High School, Clayton Walch who attends Litchfield High School, Grace Anderson who attends University of Missouri - Columbia, Cody Knodle who attends Lake Land College and Peyton Tester who attends University of Illinois - Champaign.

USDA Ensures Food Safety During COVID-19 Outbreak

(Washington, D.C., March 17, 2020) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is ensuring the safety and timely delivery of the U.S. food supply while protecting the health of USDA employees during this COVID-19 National Emergency. Yesterday, USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach and USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Mindy Brashears sent a letter to stakeholders reassuring them that APHIS, AMS, and FSIS are rising to meet the challenges associated with COVID-19.

As leaders of USDAs Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Agricultural Marketing Service, and Food Safety and Inspection Service we can assure you that the agencies are committed to ensuring the health and safety of our employees while still providing the timely delivery of the services to maintain the movement of Americas food supply from farm to fork As we come together as a country to address this public health threat, know that USDA remains committed to working closely with industry to fulfill our mission of ensuring the safety of the U.S. food supply and protecting agricultural health, Under Secretary Ibach and Deputy Under Secretary Brashears said in the letter to stakeholders.
Food Safety and Inspection Service:
Meat, poultry, and processed egg inspection services continue as normal.
Planning for absenteeism is a part of normal FSIS operations and as such, FSIS is closely monitoring and tracking employee absenteeism to plan for and minimize impacts to operations. FSIS is also working to prioritize inspection at establishments based on local conditions and resources available.

Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) APHIS and AMS continue to provide critical inspections and grading services. APHIS and AMS are ensuring the health and safety of USDA employees while still providing the timely delivery of the services to maintain the movement of Americas food supply moving from farms to forks. APHIS and AMS are prepared to remedy any possible disruptions in their services. AMS will continue to report commodity prices through its market news service. Commodity markets can be assured that the USDA will keep Americas food supply safe as well as abundant during this national emergency.

For more information from the USDA, you may visit

The latest information directly from the CDC can be found at

$2M Grant to IDNR from USDA

Washington, DC -- U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) announced today that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has received a $2,008,800 grant through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service's Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP). This program aims to encourage private landowners to allow public access to their land for hunting, fishing and other wildlife-dependent recreation.

The State of Illinois will maintain and expand its successful Illinois Recreational Access Program (IRAP). The grant will allow IRAP to focus on two specific land uses metropolitan areas and USDA Wetland Reserve acres. To encourage landowners to provide public hunting and fishing access and improve habitat, IRAP will incentivize the implementation of habitat improvement projects for landowners as well as educate private landowners on best management practices.

"This federal funding will allow the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to continue and expand it's Illinois Recreational Access Program," said Davis. "I've heard directly from constituents about what a great program this is to encourage conservation and open up outdoor recreational opportunities. I'll continue to be an advocate for this funding at the federal level."

Not only does this program enhance and protect wildlife habitat, but it also provides new opportunities for the public to enjoy the outdoors and potentially generates new revenue streams for private landowners, said NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr.

Hillsboro FFA Member Wins Districts


Garrett Schaake & Erin Kistner

Erin Kistner of Witt, was selected as the District FFA Proficiency Winner in Ag Communications, on Wednesday, March 4 in Sullivan. Garrett Schaake also competed in District judging in Fire Safety. Both are members of the Hillsboro
FFA Chapter, and were previously chosen as the Chapter and Section winners in their areas. Illinois FFA recognizes students in fifty different area based on their work-based learning, known as Supervised Agricultural Experiences, or SAE. FFA members select areas of interest and keep detailed records of hours and type of work they have completed in each area. Both of the members were the Section 19 winners in their areas in February, moving on to District competition in Sullivan, where they were interviewed by a panel of judges. Erin will now move on to the State FFA Awards Selection at the University of Illinois on March 21.

Montgomery Co SWCD Planning Fish Sale

The Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District is now accepting orders for the 2020 Spring Fish Sale. The sale is planned for Tuesday, April 7th and 8 AM, and pre-orders are due by April 1st.

Many species of live fish for pond stocking will be available, as well as fathead minnows and grass carp for pond maintainenance

Order forms can be obtained by calling 217-532-3361 EXT 3, or by download form the SWCD website at

Davis Votes for Coronavirus Funding

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) today voted for $8.3 billion in funding to help to fight the Coronavirus. Additionally, Davis announced that he will hold a roundtable with health care professionals from across the district in Decatur on Friday. Details for media on Friday's roundtable to come.

"Ensuring our local health professionals have the information and resources they need to prevent and treat this illness is a top priority of mine," said Davis. "This funding is critical to help prevent, treat, and develop vaccines for the Coronavirus. I'm glad we could finally come together to pass this important funding package. I look forward to meeting with health professionals across the district on Friday to learn more about preparedness in Illinois and what else is needed to fight this."

Highlights from the $8.3 billion funding package include:

More than $4 billion to make diagnosis tests more broadly available, support treatments to ease the symptoms of those infected with the virus and invest in vaccine development and to procure vaccines when they are available. Funds are also made available for the Food and Drug Administration to protect the integrity of medical products manufactured overseas and identify and prevent potential shortages.

$2.2 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for a robust response, including: Nearly $1 billion exclusively for state and local response efforts; and $300 million for CDCs Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund to prevent, prepare for, and respond to diseases keeping our nation prepared and positioned for any health threat.
$20 million to administer disaster assistance loans for small businesses impacted by the virus.

$1.25 billion for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to protect Americans abroad and prevent the spread of the virus worldwide, including: $264 million to evacuate Americans and maintain consular operations overseas. $200 million for USAIDs Emergency Response Fund to prepare for and respond to emerging health threats working to prevent the spread of illness and infection before it reaches U.S. soil.

Prairie Farmer names 2020 Master Farmers


The 2020 Master Farmers from left to right: Dale Hadden, Jacksonville; Joe Pickrell, Buffalo; John and Susan Adams, Atlanta; Ted Mottaz, Elmwood. Photo by Holly Spangler

Five Illinois producers will be honored as 2020 Master Farmers at Prairie Farmer magazines annual event in Springfield, Ill., on Thursday, March 19. The award recognizes exceptional agricultural production skills, commitment to family and service to community.

The 2020 Master Farmers are:
John and Susan Adams, Atlanta
Dale Hadden, Jacksonville
Ted Mottaz, Elmwood
Joe Pickrell, Buffalo

Look for profiles of each winner in the March 2020 Prairie Farmer and online at during the week of March 2.

The Master Farmer award is Illinois agricultures lifetime achievement award, said Holly Spangler, Prairie Farmer editor. These farmers are at the top of their game, and this award is based on their entire body of work in the field, in the family, and in the community.

Prairie Farmer first offered the Master Farmer award 95 years ago, in 1925. Editors have continued the tradition annually since 1968, following a pause initially caused by the Depression. When Editor Clifford Gregory established the Master Farmer program, he felt the award would help give farm people a greater sense of pride and permanence. Nearly 350 Illinois producers have been inducted as Master Farmers or Honorary Master Farmers over the programs history.

Candidates are nominated by farmers, neighbors, agribusiness leaders and farm organizations throughout the state. Judges for the 2020 awards were Karen Corrigan, McGillicuddy Corrigan Agronomics; Ed McMillan, University of Illinois Board of Trustees; Linnea Kooistra, 2011 Master Farmer; Steve Myers, Busey Ag Services; Dwight Raab, First Midwest Bank; and Holly Spangler, Prairie Farmer editor.

Some Master Farmers serve in state and national farm leadership positions. Others chair prestigious boards or serve with honor at the highest levels of government. Still others build their farms or businesses to regional or national prominence.

However, all serve their communities building churches, chairing little-known but important committees, organizing harvest for a stricken neighbor and continuing the service-minded commitment that earned them the Master Farmer distinction in the first place.

Every year, we pour through pages and pages of applications that document a lifetime of work. We sift until we find the very best Illinois farmers the people who raise good crops and even better families, and who build their communities all along the way, said Spangler. These Master Farmers are leveraging every ounce of skill they have for the greater good.

Prairie Farmer is published 12 times a year for Illinois farm families.

Established in 1841, it is the oldest continuously published farm periodical in the United States. GROWMARK, Inc., is a financial sponsor of the award. Like the Master Farmer award, the GROWMARK system was born during the 1920s, when farmer cooperatives first organized the Illinois Farm Supply Co. Today, the brand is known as FS.

Jerry Costello II to lead the IL Dept of Ag


Gov. J.B. Pritzker Friday appointed Jerry Costello II to lead the Illinois Department of Agriculture, pending Senate approval.

The law enforcement director with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) since May 2019, Costello of Smithton, served in the Illinois House of Representatives from 2011 to 2019. His term included serving as chairman of the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee. Costello also served in the Pritzker-Stratton Agriculture Transition Committee.

Our agriculture sector drives our states economy to the tune of $19 billion every year, and Im confident that Jerrys deep experience will bring a steady hand to the department and continue the impressive growth of this vital industry, Pritzker said in a prepared statement.

Today, the announcement by Governor Pritzker naming Jerry Costello II as the next director of agriculture shows the governors commitment to the largest industry in the state, said Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. We realize the governor had a tough decision to make in naming a new director of agriculture from the qualified candidates who had applied.

Guebert noted Costello has a proven record in supporting agriculture, supported agriculture on key legislation and championed supportive efforts. The president mentioned Costellos support for enhancing tax incentives for biofuels, grant programs for agricultural education teachers, increasing highway access for agricultural commodities and advocating for key agricultural programs in the state budget.

In a prepared statement, Costello expressed his honor to continue serving the people of Illinois. He added he is excited to lead the department he once oversaw in the state legislature.

The acting director continued, As a leading producer of soybeans, corn and swine, Illinois is home to the most dedicated farmers in the world, and I look forward to partnering with them to grow our states agricultural economy.

A graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Costello served as a paratrooper with the U.S. Armys 82nd Airborne Division during Operation Desert Storm. Following his military service in Iraq, Costello joined law enforcement in Illinois, advancing to become an assistant chief of police.

Born and raised in Southern Illinois, Costellos family raises crops and cattle on a small farm in Franklin County. Costello lives in Smithton with his wife Lori and their three children.

We look forward to working with Director Costello in his new role, Guebert added. Since his election, the governor has worked hard to choose people to run the Department of Agriculture who take pride in ensuring that the agricultural community is well represented. We believe Jerry Costello will continue in that tradition.


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